When Janice, Mimi, and I first became friends, we discovered that we had a string of birthdays: me in August, Janice in September, Mimi in October. As newlyweds on limited budgets, we decided to jointly celebrate by going out for dessert in Old Pasadena, just us girls. We closed down a new place called Mi Piace and then sat in Mimi’s car in our driveway, talking away. In the days before cell phones, Mike called our house to see if Bing knew anything about our whereabouts. Bing suspected accurately and came ambling out to see if maybe we wouldn’t be more comfortable inside – and Mimi, call Mike.
And so began a fine tradition of picking an evening towards the end of every summer before school started when we could leave the husbands, and later, the kids, at home, and talk the night away. It wasn’t as if we didn’t otherwise talk with one another – we were constantly together – but we always looked forward to our birthday night out. Along the way, we racked up some funny escapades, tried out new restaurants (growing up at some point to afford dinner, and not just dessert), and enlarged the group with other girlfriends. Along the way, we commiserated through pregnancies and births, infertility and adoption, kids starting school, kids in school, and all too soon, cancer.
The birthday group morphed into an even larger chemo support group for Janice, and then for Bing. Janice would survive Bing by nine months in 2003, our annus horribilus. Throughout it all, our birthday group exploded into almost-endless world filled with other incredible friends.
I love this photo as a remembrance of our birthday group. Although it is not dated, I know it was taken in August 2000. Janice had had her first surgery at the end of July and this was when she was feeling up to going out. We’re at Saladang Song, a favorite Thai restaurant here in Pasadena. And I know it wasn’t any later than August because she still has her beautiful curly hair, before she started chemo. Carol is standing on the left, Elizabeth standing on the right, Janice in the middle, and Mimi on the right.
Mimi has now driven me to the hospital, staying with me on my own chemo days. Two of us have had daughters marry; Mimi is welcoming a son home from a mission, as we speak. We are long past the point of wanting to be reminded about getting another year older, but we still convene our birthday group as an excuse for getting together. In fact, the group has gotten so large, it’s splintered into at least two clusters.
Since I’m feeling so much better at the time of this birthday than I did at the time of last year’s birthday, I was more in the mood to celebrate this year. Thank you to all of you who sent such warm wishes from Boston, Washington, D.C., Klamath Falls, Provo and Salt Lake City, Rockingham, Merritt Island, Pacific Palisades, Palo Alto, and other places near and far. The birthday group returned to Saladang Song this year, with dessert at my house. I think we would all agree that while it is not the same without Janice, we’re sure she is with us every year in spirit.
I’m told that birthdays are celebrated in heaven. Will there be pad see iew and chocolate cake there? If that’s where I end up, I certainly hope so.